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Front Neural Circuits. 2016 Dec 15;10:101. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2016.00101. eCollection 2016.

Local Field Potentials: Myths and Misunderstandings.

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Department of Translational Neuroscience, Cajal Institute-CSIC Madrid, Spain.


The intracerebral local field potential (LFP) is a measure of brain activity that reflects the highly dynamic flow of information across neural networks. This is a composite signal that receives contributions from multiple neural sources, yet interpreting its nature and significance may be hindered by several confounding factors and technical limitations. By and large, the main factor defining the amplitude of LFPs is the geometry of the current sources, over and above the degree of synchronization or the properties of the media. As such, similar levels of activity may result in potentials that differ in several orders of magnitude in different populations. The geometry of these sources has been experimentally inaccessible until intracerebral high density recordings enabled the co-activating sources to be revealed. Without this information, it has proven difficult to interpret a century's worth of recordings that used temporal cues alone, such as event or spike related potentials and frequency bands. Meanwhile, a collection of biophysically ill-founded concepts have been considered legitimate, which can now be corrected in the light of recent advances. The relationship of LFPs to their sources is often counterintuitive. For instance, most LFP activity is not local but remote, it may be larger further from rather than close to the source, the polarity does not define its excitatory or inhibitory nature, and the amplitude may increase when source's activity is reduced. As technological developments foster the use of LFPs, the time is now ripe to raise awareness of the need to take into account spatial aspects of these signals and of the errors derived from neglecting to do so.


EEG; cell assembly; local field potentials; network oscillations; neuronal circuits; spatial discrimination; spontaneous activity; volume-conduction

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